Automotive

Volkswagen makes van life bigger with production California XXL camper van

Volkswagen makes van life bigg...
The Volkswagen California XXL concept made some noise at last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, and the production version will follow at this year's show
The Volkswagen California XXL concept made some noise at last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, and the production version will follow at this year's show
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The shortened production van will have less of a rear bedroom and more of a rear load area with convertible bed, as compared to the 2017 concept
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The shortened production van will have less of a rear bedroom and more of a rear load area with convertible bed, as compared to the 2017 concept
The concept van had a drop-down sink directly over the toilet, whereas this sketch shows a corner sink and compact toilet, possibly with swivel-away capability 
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The concept van had a drop-down sink directly over the toilet, whereas this sketch shows a corner sink and compact toilet, possibly with swivel-away capability 
The Volkswagen California XXL concept made some noise at last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, and the production version will follow at this year's show
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The Volkswagen California XXL concept made some noise at last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, and the production version will follow at this year's show
One change that we notice already is the loss of the California XXL concept's extended rear bodywork, which helped to create the cozy rear bedroom
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One change that we notice already is the loss of the California XXL concept's extended rear bodywork, which helped to create the cozy rear bedroom
We'll miss the bedroom, but not the bloated look of that extra rear-end
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We'll miss the bedroom, but not the bloated look of that extra rear-end
2017 Volkswagen California concept camper van
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2017 Volkswagen California concept camper van
Some of the more clever features of the California XXL concept included the slide-out bathroom and retractable stove burners - we're guessing those won't make it to production
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Some of the more clever features of the California XXL concept included the slide-out bathroom and retractable stove burners - we're guessing those won't make it to production
The VW California XXL concept included an expandable countertop
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The VW California XXL concept included an expandable countertop
The concept's retractable stove burners meant the cooktop could be used as a flat worktop or a stove - without the need for a separate lid
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The concept's retractable stove burners meant the cooktop could be used as a flat worktop or a stove - without the need for a separate lid
The concept included a small coffee maker built into the cabinetry
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The concept included a small coffee maker built into the cabinetry
2017 Volkswagen California concept camper van roof bed
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2017 Volkswagen California concept camper van roof bed
Will the production van include a large glass roof like the concept?
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Will the production van include a large glass roof like the concept?
We're guessing the production Crafter camper will lose the tablet control center, but maybe it'll have a smaller touchscreen
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We're guessing the production Crafter camper will lose the tablet control center, but maybe it'll have a smaller touchscreen
The California XXL concept included plenty of ambient light
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The California XXL concept included plenty of ambient light
The concept dropped the load doors and had a lower storage trunk, but the production van will include dual rear doors
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The concept dropped the load doors and had a lower storage trunk, but the production van will include dual rear doors
The VW California XXL concept bathroom had a lift-away sink and toilet in its expanding bathroom
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The VW California XXL concept bathroom had a lift-away sink and toilet in its expanding bathroom
A part of VW's 2018 California celebration - the 100,000th California rolls off Hannover assembly lines
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A part of VW's 2018 California celebration - the 100,000th California rolls off Hannover assembly lines
The smaller Transporter T6 California will soon be joined by a Crafter camper van
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The smaller Transporter T6 California will soon be joined by a Crafter camper van
A diagram of the VW California XXL concept camper van
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A diagram of the VW California XXL concept camper van
Volkswagen says it will look to keep the interior of the production Crafter camper van bright
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Volkswagen says it will look to keep the interior of the production Crafter camper van bright
The creative rear bedroom of the XXL concept was closed off with the slide-out bathroom and a lift-up countertop panel, and the wall served as a screen for the projector TV system
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The creative rear bedroom of the XXL concept was closed off with the slide-out bathroom and a lift-up countertop panel, and the wall served as a screen for the projector TV system
VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
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VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
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VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
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VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
One of the original T3-based Californias from 1988
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One of the original T3-based Californias from 1988
1988 VW Transporter T3 California camper van
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1988 VW Transporter T3 California camper van
Modern and classic - VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
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Modern and classic - VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
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VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
2018 marks 30 years of the VW California camper van
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2018 marks 30 years of the VW California camper van
That's the type of view that camping is all about - VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
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That's the type of view that camping is all about - VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
The first two generations of California were built by Westfalia, before VW took over production in Hannover for the T5 California
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The first two generations of California were built by Westfalia, before VW took over production in Hannover for the T5 California
VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
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VW celebrates 30 years of the California camper van
This sketch of the production Crafter camper van shows a standard van body and a high roof. VW used the high roof of the concept to house a bed, so we're thinking the production version will also have a roof bed, along with the rear bed
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This sketch of the production Crafter camper van shows a standard van body and a high roof. VW used the high roof of the concept to house a bed, so we're thinking the production version will also have a roof bed, along with the rear bed
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It was one of the biggest, splashiest camper van debuts of 2017, and now it's heading to highways and byways. Volkswagen's California XXL concept will officially give way to a Crafter-based production camper van at this year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. It'll certainly lose some of the wilder features and flair of the slick concept van, but it'll give VW camper bus buyers something larger and newer to think about.

Even before VW's official announcement today, all stars seemed to be aligning for a production version of the 2017 California XXL concept. After stealing the show at the 2017 Düsseldorf salon with the concept, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has spent much time in 2018 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the smaller, Transporter-based California camper van. The celebration even saw the camper icon leap the Atlantic for a rare appearance on actual California soil (the Transporter and California are, quite infamously, not sold in the US).

2018 marks 30 years of the VW California camper van
2018 marks 30 years of the VW California camper van

What better way to slap an exclamation point onto the anniversary celebrations than by introducing an all-new Crafter California? We're assuming that VW works the "California" name into the production camper van model, though that isn't yet a certainty. Its announcement refers to the production van not as the California XXL but as a "Crafter-based camper."

Whatever its name, an XXL-based production model is great news for anyone who loved the concept (we definitely did) and VW camper van fans in general. On the downside, though, the production version will undoubtedly lose some of the creative features that made the California XXL concept such a hit.

The chopping block almost certainly includes any or all of the slide-out bathroom extension, bedroom projection TV system, retractable stove burners and smart home-like tablet control system, among other clever features. Whether the production version manages to retain enough innovation to be more than just a bigger California remains to be seen.

Then again, the Transporter California remains a camper van icon despite being a fairly straightforward camper package, so maybe the new Crafter camper doesn't need to be all that much more than a bigger California to make some noise.

This sketch of the production Crafter camper van shows a standard van body and a high roof. VW used the high roof of the concept to house a bed, so we're thinking the production version will also have a roof bed, along with the rear bed
This sketch of the production Crafter camper van shows a standard van body and a high roof. VW used the high roof of the concept to house a bed, so we're thinking the production version will also have a roof bed, along with the rear bed

Volkswagen has teased the production design with a trio of sketches, and one big difference we can see is that the production camper layout will be positioned within a standard Crafter body – no extended upper rear bodywork. That's actually a good move because that extended bodywork was one of the least attractive features of the concept, eliminating the useful rear load doors and making the van look absolutely bloated. If you can build a California camper van from a Transporter, no reason you can't build one from a standard-body Crafter.

The production van does retain the concept's high roof and rear bed, so we anticipate that it'll be a three- or four-sleeper with built-in roof bed. The loss of the extended body means that the cozy rear bedroom area will give way to a simpler convertible rear bed. The below sketch shows a central bed panel that can remove to open the aisle up, likely enough to load longer items like bicycles and surfboards through the double doors, a feature lacking on the rear door-less concept van.

The shortened production van will have less of a rear bedroom and more of a rear load area with convertible bed, as compared to the 2017 concept
The shortened production van will have less of a rear bedroom and more of a rear load area with convertible bed, as compared to the 2017 concept

We aren't expecting to see a sliding bathroom on the production version, and the third sketch released today shows a new bathroom configuration with corner sink and toilet. It appears that the toilet might swivel away into a compartment below the sink. The new camper van will also include a shower.

The concept van had a drop-down sink directly over the toilet, whereas this sketch shows a corner sink and compact toilet, possibly with swivel-away capability 
The concept van had a drop-down sink directly over the toilet, whereas this sketch shows a corner sink and compact toilet, possibly with swivel-away capability 

As for the California XXL concept's slick, smart home-style command tablet, touchscreen control systems have been featuring in more motorhomes, including the recently debuted Leisure Wonder RTB and Knaus Van Ti Plus. However, those systems tend to fall short of Volkswagen's removable tablet concept, which controlled not only motorhome basics like lighting but also music and entertainment. So we'll have to wait and see what VW does there.

Beyond the penciled sneak peek, Volkswagen has revealed only that the Crafter camper van will tie in with the Transporter California with shared features like a choice of solid and dual-tone exterior paint. As in the XXL concept, VW will use its color palette to keep the interior light and bright.

At the end of the day, we're tempering expectations for a full production version of the concept California XXL while hoping that some of the more useful concept features make their way to production – pretty much the same thing we'd do for any other production-bound concept car or vehicle.

The California XXL concept included plenty of ambient light
The California XXL concept included plenty of ambient light

Volkswagen plans to reveal more details as the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon debut approaches. The show gets underway on August 24.

Along with the new sketches, we've included a bunch of photos of the 2017 California XXL concept camper in the gallery so you can get another look at what features you hope show up in production. We've also thrown in some shots of VW's year of California celebrations - because who doesn't love checking out another VW camper bus or two?

Source: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles

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